Don’t Wait for One Perfect Day With Your Dog

Honey the Golden Retriever takes the lead at the dog park.

A perfect day means playing with a new friend.

If you knew your dog was coming to the end of her life, wouldn’t you want to have one perfect day with her?

Why wait?

Good Advice for Grieving a Pet

I’ve borrowed or renewed at the library Jon Katz’s book, Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die four times. How could I read a book about grieving a pet without becoming nuts with grief myself?

Finally, I cracked open the cover. And I’m glad I did. It’s a wonderful book.

One of my favorite stories was of veteran, Harry and his beloved dog, Duke. When the vet told Harry Duke wouldn’t last much longer with his chronic heart disease, Harry decided to spend one perfect day together.

They cuddled on the couch. Harry took Duke on his favorite walk, albeit slowly and with lots of rest breaks. Duke chased balls. And he got to eat a big plate of steak.

After Duke passed, Harry had that wonderful memory of spending the day with his best friend, doing only what he loved to do.

Planning a perfect day was the best advice Katz gave for preparing for a dog’s death.

But it left me asking one question: why wait until our dogs have a fatal diagnosis?

Why not plan a perfect day with your dog now? Or every year? Or every month?

Honey’s Perfect Day

Honey’s birthday is at the end of the month. Sounds like a perfect excuse to plan a perfect day for her.

What would Honey do on her perfect day?

  • Play several vigorous games of tug with Mike
  • Go for a long, off-leash walk
  • Do nosework games
  • Play with another dog
  • Learn a new behavior with a clicker and liverwurst
  • Visit with her favorite human friends
  • Eat sweet potato snacks
  • Doze on Mike’s lap while he watches a movie
Honey, the Golden Retriever, comes running back on her walk.

And some off-leash exploring.

I think we can do that.

And when it’s Honey’s time to leave us (hopefully more than a decade in the future), we’ll have lots of perfect days to look back on. And not just one.

Have you ever planned a perfect day for your dog? Did you do it at the end of their life? Or earlier?

 

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Comments

  1. I like to think that every day can be perfect, in its own special way. Perhaps it’s because we snuggled on the ‘human’ bed, maybe Inka ran through his favourite tricks, or Starr sat on my lap to keep me on the floor for just a little while longer.

    Perfect days are nice, but I’d rather have lots of perfect moments to remember…

  2. We just take everyday as maybe our last with Pip who is 15 now. She is fine but long walks are out of the question. Anything with a treat at the end is her thing. Like old people she just wants food and sleep and a little interaction if there is a foodable involved. However thank you it has made me think what more we can do. I will give it some real thought. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

    • One of the great blessings of living with an older dog is that we think more often about the preciousness of our time together.

      I wrote this post to remind myself to bring that same attitude I’ve had with older dogs to life with Honey (who will be three this month). I hope I can keep it up.

  3. Such perfect timing with this post! I recently planned a perfect day with Emmett. Cooper and Lucas started going to doggy daycare together one day a week, leaving me with one whole day each week with Em. We went to the park, went for a walk, stopped by Petco and got him his own toy, had special snacks, and so on. It was so fun for both of us! Now that the other two are going to daycare once a week, I’m going to have an Emmett day once a week, and I’m so excited about it!

  4. I am thinking more about that with Lamar, and trying to give him many perfect experiences like massages and treats on his walks. Planning a perfect day is a great idea. I remember after my old girl Tashi was given her diagnosis, the vet suggested euthanizing her that day. She had 3 more months of doing things she loved, including a few days that I tried to make near-perfect for her. But you’re right, far better to start doing it earlier than that–who knows how long any of us have, right?

    • Your mention of Tashi reminds me when Shadow (the dog in my header) was diagnosed with bone cancer in her jaw. We were told she’d have only a few months without treatment and maybe twice that with radical surgery and radiation.

      We opted not to do invasive treatments and started filling her days with as many fun times as possible. Lucky for us, she stayed with us 2 years. But I’m still glad for the sense of urgency that moved us to do lots of fun stuff.

      As you said, none of us know how long we’re given.

      It sounds like the decision you made for Tashi gave you many more happy memories with her. What a blessing.

  5. Sounds like an insightful book, Pam, thanks for sharing!

  6. When I read posts like this I always tear up because I didn’t do any of this for my childhood dog. All of my memories of her are plagued with regret and guilt. She deserved so much better. But there is nothing I can do about that now. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy the time I have with my current dog as much as possible. I think it’s time Shiva had a perfect day as well.

    • I’m sure you and I could have a big cry fest together talking and thinking about our childhood dogs. Let’s not go there.

      But I would love for you to read this book, especially the chapter where Katz talks about guilt. I’m taking a lot of lessons from it and I bet you would too.

      BTW, I thought I’d be blubbering all the way through the book and I’m not. It has a lot of tender and hopeful messages. I still wouldn’t recommend reading it on the bus. But it’s a good read when you feel you have the strength to immerse yourself in such a deep and profound subject.

    • Oh Kristine – my heart goes out to you. I hear *myself* in your post! My first dog as an adult – Kodak. She was my true heart-dog. And now that she has gone I’ve learned so much that I “could have – would have” done had I only known. It is in her honor that I started a local Cocker Spaniel Rescue (even tho she was a mix). And I live each day now with my two fur-kids, doing for them what I didn’t know to do for her. We all learn. While Kodak had a great life, I know now that it could have been better. She is my inspiration for what I do now, for what I take the time to learn now, for what my now-kids benefit from. There IS something you can do about it now – know … learn … pay it forward. All in honor of your own childhood fur-kid. Many hugs from my heart and home to yours (and nubbie wags from Indie and Bennett).

  7. These guys just love to be out walking, or preferably hiking off leash. And sitting on my lap is always part of the perfect day. So, they mostly get their perfect day, everyday. Lucky dogs. LOL

  8. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    When I knew it was time to let my poodle go to the rainbow bridge — back in November 2003 — I scheduled her euthanasia for the first Friday in December, and two vacation days (that Thursday & Friday) from work. She was in such bad shape by then that all she really wanted to do was sleep most of the time, so the majority of that time we spent together was spent with her in my lap while I watched old movies on TCM. And while she slept, I cried. And cried, and cried some more. I probably went through at least 5 boxes of tissues in those 2 days! We had already packed for a weekend away (in Savannah), so at some point on Friday, I put our bags in the back of the car and when Sam got home from work, we went straight to the vet. We stayed with my little girl the whole time, and for a short while after she had passed. Even the vet’s eyes were glistening a bit. I knew my baby was in good hands, playing with my childhood dogs and Mom, and no longer sick, so I wasn’t crying for her so much as for myself. For all the years of her life, she and I were each other’s soul mate, and when she passed, a part of me went with her. So now, with Callie & Shadow in their senior years, I try to give them special times while Ducky’s at doggie daycare.

  9. We planned many perfect days with our Abby (involving a LONG walk/play at the beach, nap, play with squeaky toys in the house, maybe a Flying Dutchman from In N Out) once we found out she had bone cancer at 15 mo. old. We knew her life would not be about the quantity, so it was all about the quantity. In 2 days it will be 1 year since we lost her at only 30 months old. You never know when it’s going to be your day, so we all have to make the most of every day!

  10. My dogs are funny – whatever we’re doing with them seems to be their favorite thing. Whether we take Buster to play at the off-leash park, or we all snuggle up on the sofa to watch movies, the dogs are happy. What I have to remember is to enjoy these things myself! I love taking the dogs for a walk on a beautiful day, but how many times have I treated that activity as another “chore” that must be done. Simply putting myself in the right frame of mind can make the moment perfect.

  11. I would do a lot of perfect days if I knew Kirby was dying. Otherwise we have a lot of perfect days or times. His birthday is on a workday so we just celebrated a whole weekend of special foods and gifts and adventures geared especially for him.

  12. I cannot even think about losing one of my dogs. It literally throws me into hysterics. That being said I like to think that most days, they have really great days. They get walks, they’re loved, they eat raw food and sleep in our bed. If I were a dog, I think that would be my idea of perfection.

  13. My perfect last day with my yellow Lab Murphy came about quite unexpectedly…I had taken her and her GSD sister Cecil Marie to a large dog park on a lake in Madison, WI. . This lake had a dock for dogs, with swim-up ramps that the dogs could use to get back up. Murphy and I had competed successfully in many AKC Hunt Tests and her favorite thing in the world was water retrieves. We spent that February afternoon doing triples off that dock until my shoulder was so tired i couldn’t throw anymore. We drove home for dinner and about an hour later she began to hemorrhage. We had been battling cancer for a couple of years, and the end had finally come. I called our vet, then bundled her into the back seat, put Cecil in the front with me and drove to the vet’s office. When I think of her I always remember that last glorious day and cannot imagine spending it any other way

  14. I’m pretty sure my dogs think that any day that is spent entirely with Mom & Dad is their perfect day, no matter what activity we are doing. But that’s why we love dogs so much, right? They’re able to appreciate the moment, be in the present and enjoy simplicity in a way that we have a lot to learn from. I know I can’t control when my dogs will leave me for the Rainbow Bridge but I can be comforted knowing that, when that happens, they enjoyed every moment they had with me.

  15. Our very first dog had cancer at 12 and a half. It was sudden and fierce. We asked the vet for a few days on pain meds so we could say goodbye. I don’t regret the decision. We treat our dogs differently now, having been through that final week with Clee-o. Maybe I should read that book. Thank you.

  16. I can’t read my dogs’ minds, but it does seem to me they communicate their desires clearly enough that every day is perfect for them. And I am such an obedient minion which also helps.

  17. I had one of those days with a dog in her last days. Angel had debilitating spinal arthritis; the vet wanted to keep her and do a CT scan – I didn’t have the funds for that so I took her home. The next day, she acted like nothing was wrong. We walked, we played, she ate anything she wanted – for one day before her symptoms and pain returned. We went back to our vet who agreed it was her time. Of course, she was in my arms as she passed. My vet then told me 1) she would register her as an angel dog and 2) if I ever needed this done again (yeah, like twice a year), she was more than happy to come to my HOUSE so the dog would be more comfortable.
    This is a superb idea and yes, Katz’s book is terrific.

  18. I have a bucket list for my dog and I live this mantra of “seize the day” EVERY day. Thanks for this post!

  19. I take time to do something for my furkids every day – even if I only have time to shut the computer down early and play tug or walk around the park. I owe it to them (see my reply to Kirsten, above, for *why* I owe it to them, a tribute to Kodak). But they do get EXTRA special days on their birthdays. That is when Indie, Bennett and I go to Petco and “chase the mice”. Yeah, going to Petco is no big thing for them, but only on two days out of the year do they get to “chase the mice” (the mice couldn’t care less, they are smart enough to know they are behind glass – and we don’t bother the more delicate creatures like the birds or the beautiful chincillas). The employees allow us our “chase” time (looking through the glass and getting all kinds of excited!) and the dogs get their hunt on : )-

  20. When Lilac started to show signs that aging was taking its toll on her, I wanted to make sure that we lived the rest of her life with no regrets. That ended up being several years. It wasn’t always easy and there were times when I was less than perfect, but for the most part, I felt that we achieved that. And I’m really glad that we did. It wasn’t easy to let her go, but the grieving process was much different for me with her than it was with Treat and Hawk. Their passings were both rather sudden, and there wasn’t time to plan those perfect days for them. After Lilac died, I felt more at peace with it. In a perfect world, she would have just gone to sleep and not woken up, but that seldom happens. I try to be in the moment with all four of our dogs now, though, so that we can have that same feeling of peace after they leave us, if that makes sense.

  21. Your post is a wonderful reminder to spend quality time with our pets every day. Walks, hugs and kisses, treats, and giving rubdowns. If I do that, I’ll have no regrets about what could have been..

    Now that I’m crying, I have to go and hug BJ. It will make me feel better and I’ll be giving him more hugs.

  22. I’ve put off reading that Jon Katz book because, really, Elka is going to live forever.

    …..isn’t she?

    Planning perfect days is an excellent idea. I think it should be a goal to plan a perfect day with each of our loved ones, really. You just never know how much time you have; you always assume there is more.

  23. I plan these special days all of the time. Or sometimes they just happen. I like trying to get individual time with each of them during the week and doing something that that dog loves. Usually it is during walks letting each dog go where they want and learning more about them and how they are. It is so amazing how individual each dog is when you get them away from the others and they start sharing their secrets with you. Sometimes we will get so carried away no one else gets a walk that day, but that alone time is so precious and worth it. And somehow I think they all understand that. :)

  24. We love to do this! Sometimes it’s just fun to give yourself permission to ignore human concerns and be the dog.

    I once read a quote asking “where would you go if you followed your dog’s nose?” Since then, it’s been a favourite pastime to head out for a walk and let one of the dogs lead the way. Always different. Always new and you can have fun speculating on what smells prompt your dog to change paths.

  25. We try to do their favorite things and give then a perfect Newf day as often as we can. My last dog Tyler and I spent many perfect days together. Tyler really taught me to stop and have a great day with him. Since he is gone (a very happy dog) I decided the Newfs deserve nothing less :)

  26. Beautiful post. My take? We really should be more like our dogs and live in the moment. And the human in me adds – and make every moment count. I know that I’m trying to spend much more time with my dogs this year, doing things they love.

  27. Everyday I think of how to make Maggie’s life better. I want her to have the best possible life ever. Why? Because if not for her, I would never of had the courage to do the things I have done in my life this past year. It was through my dogs eyes that I knew I had to change my life….and since its been truly amazing.

  28. With two of my dogs aging, and the other having had two cancerous growths, this is something that always weighs on my mind. While I can’t say every day is “perfect” I do try to make the time I spend with the dogs quality time. I’m trying my best to cherish the moments I have left with them. This has also made me to focus less on training, and allowing some stuff to slide that I never would have allowed years ago. (Like Toby lounging on the bed, or Meadow curling up between me and Nick on the sofa while we watch t.v., or allowing Leah to beg shamelessly for the ice cream I’m eating – and then giving her a taste when I’m through). Life is too short, and we should try to enjoy the moments we have. It’s not always easy, and posts like these are a good reminder to make more of an effort.

  29. Well at Charlie’s age I think it will probably change a bit when he gets older, but for him I think a perfect day would be a long off leash bushwack, and than come home and nap for the entire day. I was going to say play with other dogs, but he loves to cuddle up to me when we take naps before and after my overnight shifts. I wonder what his perfect day will look like when he gets older.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Don’t Wait for One Perfect Day With Your Dog from Pamela at Something Wagging This Way Comes. I am a huge fan of Jon Katz’s books, and I know a lot of people really latched onto the idea of creating a perfect day for their dog as it nears the end of it’s life. It’s a great idea. An even better idea? Pamela’s of making perfect days happen now, and more than once. Because a perfect day with your dog isn’t just great for your dog, it’s great for you, too. […]